Writing Tips – When to Place a Paragraph Break


Why We Need Paragraphs

Paragraphs are the stepping stones of a story. The reader steps neatly, paragraph by paragraph, along the story path, with each stepping stone leading the reader into a new unexpected direction. So how do you shape your story into a series of stepping stones?

Try looking at your story or essay without any paragraphs at all. At first glance, this large block of text looks formidable and challenging to read. As you read through, you can see how confusing it is to follow the change in speakers, scenes or arguments when all the text runs together.

Compare this to a news article in your local newspaper. You will see the reporter has pressed “Enter” after each full stop, so ever sentence is a complete paragraph. News editors and reporters understand that people reading the paper will skim through a story quickly, so they break the text into the smallest chunks possible. (Although reporters compensate for the One Sentence per Paragraph Rule by making their sentences as long as possible.)

Essays and short stories are more flexible about when to break for a new paragraph, which is why it can be confusing to know when to press “Enter.” The following simple rules will help you break your writing into easy-to-navigate stepping stones for your reader.

Essays: One Topic, One Paragraph

An essay is a series of arguments, or points supporting an argument, in answer to the question on top of the page. Each point you make to support your argument should be in a paragraph of its own. So if you are arguing that fish should live in the sea, your first paragraph might explain how gills work best under water, and your second paragraph will discuss how fish travel less efficiently across land.

When you break to the next paragraph, begin the first sentence with a connecting word such as “also” or “however”, to demonstrate how this paragraph’s argument is connected to the previous argument. By linking all your paragraphs, you are presenting your overall argument in a logical sequence. Your reader can navigate easily through the essay, considering each point you are making one step at a time without becoming lost or confused.

Creative Stories: Break for a Shift

In stories, a new paragraph signifies a shift or change of person, time or place. By breaking for a new paragraph, you present a physical break on the page. It seems more logical to the reader that someone else has started speaking, or the hero is now in the pub rather than at his mother’s house. Asked to write my essay reviews i paid someone to write my paper?So press “Enter” when:

  • Another character starts speaking;
  • There has been a jump in time; begin your next paragraph with “The next day” or “Later”;
  • The scene has shifted to another place; begin your next paragraph with “Meanwhile outside” or “At the police station…” so your reader knows where the story has shifted.

If your story takes place in one room within one time-frame and with multiple characters, you can also use paragraphs like an imaginary camera, changing angles within the room.

“I don’t see how anyone could have broken in without us hearing something,” Ronald said.

Mary twisted her pearls in her hands and did not answer.

“I wonder if… ” I said. “My God, what was that?”

We all jumped, startled by the distant crash of breaking glass…

When placed correctly, paragraphs present one small intriguing “stepping stone” of information, encouraging your reader to continue jumping forward until the end of the story.